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CNN Today

One Year Later, Remnants of War in Kosovo

Aired April 3, 2000 - 1:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: It's been a year since NATO launched its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia and Serb forces in Kosovo. And while the attacks succeeded at putting an end to ethnic cleansing in the province, they also caused what generals and politicians call collateral damage, or destruction and death not intended.

CNN's Richard Blystone reports, that one year later, those effects are still being felt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To protect its pilots, NATO ordered them to stay five kilometers up, and left it to high-tech weapons to find the right target. Often they did. Sometimes they didn't.

MARK ALMOND, OXFORD UNIVERSITY: The tragedy is when a precision bomb hits a gas station surrounded by cottages, you discover that you can't fight a humanitarian war in a humane way.

BLYSTONE: Analysts still debate whether the brutal purge of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo would have happened anyway, or was touched off by the air attacks. But there's no escaping the fact that it was NATO bombing and bombing from high altitude that resulted in scenes like this.

The alliance estimated no more than 30 incidents in which innocent people were killed, but investigators from the international agency Human Rights Watch found three times that many and counted 500 dead, both Serbs and Albanians, and those were just the ones they could verify.

When its tactical bombing failed to stop Yugoslav forces, NATO decided to target Yugoslav infrastructure. More than half the war's targets were places designated as civilian, but of use to the military, like factories, power plants, the TV station.

The bodies have since been buried, but innocent Serbs are still living with the results: cold, poverty, massive unemployment, anxiety, apathy and hopelessness.

The director of UNICEF in Britain says it's hard to raise international money for Serbs. DAVID BULL, UNICEF U.K. DIRECTOR: Serbia is now facing very difficult circumstances. Children and young people are perhaps the most endangered anywhere in Europe. Two-thirds of the people in Serbia are living at or below the poverty line,

BLYSTONE: And the airstrikes left behind a legacy that is killing still: thousands of unexploded bomblets from the 1,400 cluster bombs dropped in the early weeks of the campaign.

RICHARD LLOYD, U.K. CONSULTING GROUP ON LANDMINES: Fourteen hundred, each containing up to 200 bomblets, so that is over a quarter of a million bomblets, and again, if you assume that between five and 10 percent don't go off, that is a very sizable problem on the ground.

BLYSTONE: The failure rate was known to NATO. The combination of bomblets and Serb mines has killed or injured more than 440 people in Kosovo alone since the bomb campaign ended. Bomblets are said to have caused one casualty in five.

LLOYD: These weapons didn't wipe out lots of armor, they didn't wipe out lots and lots of Yugoslav army power, what they are doing is they are killing children, men, women on a weekly basis in the months after they've returned home.

BLYSTONE: The bomblets, some brightly colored, about the size of a soft drink can, are attractive to children and pack 30 times the explosive punch of an antipersonnel mine.

Collateral damage doesn't stop at the borders of Kosovo or Serbia. Just one example: bridges dropped into the River Danube, one of Europe's main thoroughfares. In normal times, the river carried 10 million tons of freight a year. Since last April, that route has been closed. The blockage has cost hundreds of millions of dollars and spelled ruin for people whose livelihoods depended on the river traffic.

(on camera): The sound of the bombs has long died away, but like a dull and distant echo across the Balkans and beyond, collateral damage will be causing pain for a long time to come.

Richard Blystone, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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